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Key Ingredient: Miso

One SixtyBlue chef Michael McDonald puts both white and red versions of the Japanese staple to work.

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Randy Zweiban, executive chef and owner of Province, challenged executive chef Michael McDonald of One SixtyBlue to come up with a recipe using miso for this installment of our weekly feature.

Michael McDonald, who's worked for chef Nobu Matsuhisa at Miami's Shore Club, was hardly unfamiliar with miso before this challenge. "I love Asian cooking, Asian techniques, Asian ingredients," he said. "My style is lighter, healthier. It played into my forte."

Miso paste is traditionally made in Japan by fermenting soybeans—or occasionally rice or barley—with a mold culture for anywhere from a couple months (for white miso) to a couple years (for red miso). "I like to use it instead of salt—I think it takes the dish to another level," McDonald said. "It's something the average diner's not used to, and it's intriguing."

The difference between the two main types of miso is pronounced, he said: "The white is sweeter, milder. The reds take on . . . a stronger, more robust flavor." Whereas he uses white misos for vinaigrettes and sauces—it's also used in the miso soup traditionally eaten for breakfast in Japan—red ones are better for marinating, though only briefly, since aged misos tend to be very salty and he doesn't want to oversalt the dish.

McDonald decided to make a spring roll with shrimp and shiitakes marinated in red miso and cooked on a wood-fired grill, with a white miso vinaigrette and edamame puree flavored with white miso. For the red miso marinade, he added a little mirin (a sweet rice wine) and sake for sweetness. The vinaigrette included rice vinegar and a mix of vegetable and sesame oils. "It's all about balance," he explained. "The vegetable oil is just kind of working as a binding agent. The sesame oil is seasoning it, giving it the flavor, but you don't want to overpower it. We're focusing on miso, so I don't want to have a vinaigrette that tastes like sesame oil."

Other vinaigrette ingredients included cilantro, mint, scallion, and black garlic, which is regular garlic fermented at high temperature; it has a mild flavor that McDonald describes as licoricey. "It just adds another element to the dish, a little pop, a little zing," he said. "When you're creating a dish it's like a puzzle, and certain ingredients don't fit. We're going Asian here, so the black garlic fits, the cilantro, the mint, the miso, the sesame oil—it's all there for a reason."

McDonald layered the spring rolls with bell pepper and pickled carrots and daikon in addition to the grilled shrimp and mushrooms, finishing off the dish with the edamame puree, an orange-vanilla reduction to "bring all these flavors together," and a micro red shiso garnish along with some crispy deep-fried edamame skins.

He was happy with the way it turned out, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't change things next time. "When we make dishes in the restaurant we'll make something and then we'll critique it," he says. "I might use a larger rice paper for this dish so it overlaps, and I can fold it over and it's more rice paper, more of a coating. It's searching ingredients, and then coming up with an idea that's original, and then putting it together and improving it."

Who's Next:

Bill Kim of Urban Belly and Belly Shack, working with aloe vera. McDonald says he was at Whole Foods looking for a challenging ingredient when he spotted fresh spears of aloe, which he's never tried cooking with. "There was a guy stocking the shelves, and I asked him, what do you do with this? And he was like, I dunno. I said, well, can you eat it? And he was like, I think so. So . . . we shall see."   

Video by Michael Gebert/Sky Full of Bacon

Red Miso Shrimp Spring Rolls With Edamame and White Miso Vinaigrette

Red Miso Marinade

3 T red miso

1 T sugar

1 T mirin

1 T sake

Whisk all ingredients together.

Orange-Vanilla Reduction

2 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice

½ cup sugar

1 T rice vinegar

1 vanilla bean, cut in half

Combine all in sauce pot and reduce over medium heat till thickened, stirring often.

Edamame Puree

1 cup edamame

1 t white miso

1 T water

1 t rice vinegar

Blanch and peel edamame, reserving the skins. Blend with other ingredients in a blender until very smooth.

White Miso Vinaigrette

2 T white miso

1 scallion

1 T rice vinegar

1 T mirin

1 t honey

3 oz canola oil

1 oz sesame oil

¼ t finely chopped jalapeño

3 sprigs cilantro

3 sprigs mint, chopped

1 clove black garlic, minced

Blend ingredients together, add oil slowly while blending, fold in cilantro, mint, jalapeño and black garlic.

Spring Rolls

2 oz red miso marinade

6 16/20 shrimp, cleaned

4 shiitake caps

4 spring roll wrappers

½ cup pickled carrots, julienned

¼ cup pickled daikon, julienned

¼ red bell pepper, julienned

8 blood orange segments

¼ cup yellow mung beans, cooked

1 oz orange and vanilla reduction

Cilantro

Mint leaves

Marinate shrimp and shiitake caps for one to two hours, then grill over wood-burning grill (a charcoal or gas grill or the oven will also work) and set aside. Soak a towel in warm water, wring out, and lay out on work surface. Dip spring roll wrappers in hot water for 20 seconds and place onto towel. Cut shrimp in half lengthwise and place three shrimp halves onto each wrapper. In a bowl toss the vegetables, mung beans, herbs, and orange reduction and a little of the red miso marinade together and place over the shrimp on the spring roll wrapper. Roll up tight and set aside.

Plating

Spread edamame puree onto two plates; stack two spring rolls on each plate and spoon the white miso vinaigrette over the top. Dust edamame skins with rice flour, deep-fry till crisp, and use to garnish the dish.

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